Friday 23 February 2018

Major shift in position as Labour TDs agree to back takeover by IAG

Sean Kenny, Labour deputy for Dublin North-East
Sean Kenny, Labour deputy for Dublin North-East

Niall O'Connor and John Downing

The Labour Party TDs who previously opposed the sale of the Government's stake in Aer Lingus will back the deal, in a major shift in position.

Despite previously expressing opposition to the deal, members of the so-called 'Aer Lingus Eight' say they will now vote in its favour following the significantly revised offer.

They U-turned after a suite of new concessions from the International Airlines Group (IAG) allayed their concerns.

The change of heart also came after senior Coalition figures spent a significant period yesterday reassuring Labour deputies that their demands were being met.

Advisers to Tánaiste Joan Burton moved to reassure the TDs as the Cabinet finally met to thrash out the details of the IAG offer - six months after the first version of the offer was tabled.

Central to the demands of the Aer Lingus Eight was that the contents of a motion unanimously backed at the Labour conference would feed into the deal at hand.

The motion called for an independent valuation of the Aer Lingus assets and Heathrow slots.

It also sought a commitment to prevent the outsourcing of jobs and compulsory redundancies at the airline.

And the motion called for a plan for Cork and Shannon airports, taking into account their value with their individual regions.

Privately, a number of the deputies said they would be willing to risk their membership of the parliamentary party unless their concerns were met.

But the eight TDs drafted a joint statement last night welcoming the new concessions.

Labour TD for Dublin North East Seán Kenny said it was "a better deal" than previously hoped for and that the pledges around jobs would be significant for the North Dublin area.

Labour TD for Dublin North Brendan Ryan said he understood that the bulk of his colleagues' concerns had been adequately addressed.

He had some outstanding reservations on assurances to the airline's workers, but believes they can be addressed with unions.

Meanwhile, in Fine Gael, a number of deputies who previously voiced concern about the sale said the deal appeared to have serious merits. Included in this group are Limerick TD Patrick O'Donovan, Clare TD Joe Carey and Dublin North TD Alan Farrell. "The figures released by Cabinet would suggest this proposal has enormously positive benefits for Dublin airport, Dublin itself and Ireland as a whole," said Mr Farrell.

Mr O'Donovan, a member of the Oireachtas Transport Committee, said the guarantee over slots was essential. "Airports, particularly smaller airports like Shannon, need time to plan and that's what this seven-year guarantee provides," he added.

Irish Independent

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